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Apodaca: The French way to tame a Tiger Mom

February 24, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

Is anyone else getting tired of being told that American parents are doing it all wrong?

Last year it was Tiger Mom, and her somewhat enlightening but highly insulting opinions about lax, indulgent Western parents.

Now we're treated to the newest sensation, French-style parenting.

According to author Pamela Druckerman, Gallic parents — read: moms — could school us cloddish Yankees on getting our kids to sleep soundly and refrain from food-throwing tantrums, all while managing to stay sexy, fit and très chic.

Druckerman is a former Wall Street Journal writer who lives in Paris with her British husband and three young children. Like Amy Chua, the Yale professor and author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," Druckerman has been blessed with great publicity; her book was excerpted in the Journal shortly before publication.

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The book is called "Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting," but the Journal headline summed up the theme less subtly: "Why French Parents Are Superior." (Chua's headline was "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.")

Chua, you might recall, would have us browbeat our kids into submission with marathon piano practices without bathroom breaks, vacations filled with math drills, and a ban on TV and video games. She advocates strictly monitoring children's activities, including their social lives — or lack thereof because she disdains play dates and sleepovers.

This form of parenting, we are meant to believe, produces musical virtuosos with perfect SAT scores who are bound for Ivy League schools and future greatness.

Druckerman, by contrast, writes that French mothers tend to set a few rules, which are strictly enforced, but allow their children a good deal of freedom within those parameters.

Moreover, she contends, French moms are more relaxed than their frazzled American counterparts because they focus greatly on their own contentment and don't let their kids rule the roost.

This style supposedly results in happy, independent, secure kids who sleep through the night by three months of age and are polite during meals. Unlike Chua's intense micromanagement, French parents apparently don't slavishly follow the minutiae of how their kids are doing in school, figuring they'll hear about it if something needs to be fixed.

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